Here's How to Honor a Loved One With Jewelry [PHOTOS]
When someone holds a special place in your heart, so do their treasured possessions.
So when you inherit a piece of jewelry from a loved one, you want to do everything you can to honor their memory.
Sometimes that's as simple as keeping the piece safe or wearing it as is. But, other times, you know the owner would want the piece worn, but in a way that makes it as special to you as it was to them.
One of our Jewelers Mutual family members, Kelly, found herself in this exact situation.
Her mother's heirloom wasn't her style. But, she had a vision to transform the individual stones into modern pieces she could wear daily.
Listen to her story (and try not to cry):
How did you come to own your heirloom jewelry?
My mother passed away in late 2011 of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She was my best friend, my everything, so losing her has been difficult. I'm so honored that she left all her jewelry in my care, including her engagement and wedding rings.
Do you know the history behind any of the pieces?
My mother acquired both her engagement ring and wedding band the year she and my father married, in the early 1970s. Years later, she customized her wedding set further by adding her Aunt Ethel's early 18th-century emeralds. The two were very close and my mother was able to honor that bond through her jewelry.
Tell us how your vision to re-imagine this jewelry came to be.
My mother's engagement and wedding rings both had deep emotional meaning to her. They were the jewelry pieces she wore most. My goal was to keep her memory alive in my heart, just as she had done with her aunt, and these two pieces gave us the closest connection.
Up until this point, my mother's rings were in my closet, along with many more pieces of her jewelry. I would pull them out a few times a year, trying to relive my memories with her. But I wanted her memory honored more than just a couple times each year.
I knew I would never actually wear her jewelry as is; we just didn't have the same sense of style. But I couldn't continue keeping them tucked away in a closet.
I decided one day to start searching online for jewelry design ideas. Ideas morphed into hand sketches and I started coming up with design concepts. I started to see how I could make something new, vibrant and full of life out of these old pieces of jewelry.
When my mother was healthy, she was active and daring, someone who could bring a spark of shimmer into your life. I knew I would have her blessing to revive her jewelry again. And I wanted the new designs to reflect her personality.
With my visions in mind, I purchased one new earring with nine beautiful diamonds set in white gold. It was just the piece I needed to combine with my mother's jewelry to create what I had dreamed up.
How did you go about finding a jeweler to bring your vision to life?
I went to two local jewelers, and ended up with two very different experiences.
The first didn't give any advice on how to design my new custom pieces. I almost felt like I was bothering them and they didn't care that the jewelry pieces were my late mother's and meant so much to me.
I then went to a second jeweler, and from the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed. They took time to listen to my story. They looked at all the jewelry I had, sized it, looked for any major flaws, and even took notes in order to give me a quote that day. They pulled visuals to help me understand when they were describing some design ideas. They were sincere and caring and acted like I was the only person in the store.
The saleswoman even offered to clean and inspect my wedding ring. She noticed my setting wasn't centered anymore and offered their services to fix it, even though I didn't purchase it there.
That's the type of service you need when working on such a sentimental project, and they now have a lifelong customer.
The customization process took about 4-6 weeks. I couldn't be happier with the results:
Do you have a favorite piece?
The necklace I created is my favorite because it holds my mother's largest diamond. I had it sized to a specific length so it could sit closest to my heart. I feel warmth, security and pride whenever I wear it, knowing my mother is with me.
How does wearing your mother's jewelry help you honor and remember her?
My emotions are mixed depending on the day, but I'm so honored to be the caretaker of her jewelry. Her pieces remind me of little moments with her. Growing up, she would get dressed up every day with makeup and bright lipstick, spray her favorite perfume on, and then put on her wedding rings. Her rings completed her. She liked to stand out and was not afraid to be a trendsetter. She was confident and comfortable with who she was. Wearing her jewelry helps me remember all that about her.
Any advice for someone that would like to customize their loved one's jewelry?
- Don't let something so meaningful sit stored away in a box. Allow the memories of your loved one to shine on forever.
- Don't feel guilty for changing the shape or purpose of the jewelry. Your loved one would be happy that you can find peace and happiness by modernizing the pieces. What really counts is the memories it represents.
- Be bold and have your jewelry items customized to something you could wear on a regular basis and something that you will love.
- Find a jeweler that takes time to listen to the history of the pieces you are customizing. It's not just jewelry, it's what holds the memories.
- Don't get discouraged if you aren't able to envision the new pieces yourself. There are many jewelers who have amazing ideas on how to re-purpose jewelry.
Do you have some heirloom jewelry you'd like to re-design? Your next stop should be our blog on choosing a jeweler. You'll get eight tried-and-true tips for finding a professional, talented jeweler.